2 Corinthians 9:1-15
A Harvest of Righteousness:
the expectation, substance, goal, and means of practical godliness
Part 3: the Goal
- The Outline of Our Study
Two weeks ago we considered
- the biblical expectation of this harvest of righteousness in our lives now from 2 Corinthians 9. Should we really expect to live righteous lives in this age? Paul says yes!
last week we considered
- the substance of the harvest of righteousness as described by Paul. In other words what godliness is and what it is not. What does godliness consist of?
this week we continue considering
- the great goal of this harvest of righteousness. Why do we even care to increase the harvest of our own and other’s righteousness?
Next time we will consider
- the means by which this harvest of righteousness is increased. How do we think about what it takes to grow in godliness?
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-12The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
Paul’s Deepest Aim
Allow me to point out Paul’s highest aim in this section. It is clear that Paul is interested in seeing the Corinthians give generously to the need of the Jerusalem saints. But, even as it is a goal of Paul to see the Corinthian church give generously from their hearts for the needs of the Jerusalem saints, that is not actually his final or highest goal. As important and essential as that is, Paul is interested in something higher and greater.
The true end and aim of our salvation and all the goings on in the church that Christ bought is the glory of God. All that God has done and is doing is for His praise and honor and worship. And this is truly the final and highest goal, not only of our justification, but also of our practical acts of righteousness as Paul’s analogy in this section points out.
Let’s try to get a handle on that analogy now.
Look at verse 6.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
So, we have sowing and reaping in this analogy. We will need to discover what it means to sow and what it means reap in Paul’s thinking.
Look at verse 10.
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Okay, so we add to sowing and reaping, the idea of seed for sowing. In addition to needing to figure out what it means to sow and reap we will need to discover what this seed is. But let’s get clear that there are at least three distinct components here: 1. Seed, 2. Sowing Seed, 3. Reaping the Harvest.
Now I think the analogy becomes most clear when we compare verse 10 with verse 11. Again verse 10 says,
‘He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food [note the relationship between seeds and bread, and both are from God] will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
Now, put alongside that verse 11,
- ‘You will be enriched in every way (corresponds in v10 to, ‘He who supplies seed to the sower…will supply and multiply your seed…’ [so, enriched in every way with seed])
- to be generous in every way (corresponds in v10 to, ‘…for sowing…’ [so, enriched with seed for sowing means enriched with seed to be generous in every way),
- which through us will produce thanksgiving to God (corresponds in v10 to, ‘…and increase the harvest of your righteousness…’ [So, you will be enriched in every way with seed for sowing, that is you will be enriched in every way with seed to be generous in every way, which will produce thanksgiving to God, that is, which will increase the harvest of your righteousness.’
So what are the three components of the analogy?
- Seed that God supplies and multiplies [we still need to get a handle on what that is].
- The actual sowing of that seed in practical acts of righteousness.
- The produce of that sowing, that which is reaped, ‘the harvest of your righteousness’, the produce is not the righteousness, but thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving to God is the harvest of our practical righteousness. Like bread is the harvest of the seed that sown.
SeedNow is there any clue in the passage about what the seed is? Some have guessed that it is money – God supplies the physical resources and we are to sow them, but I think there is a much better answer which connects us to what Paul has been saying throughout chapters 8 and 9.
First, look at verse 8 of chapter 9. Again, remember that we are looking for what this seed is with which God supplies and multiplies and with which He enriches His people,
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
So, it seems clear to me, the more I read through this text, that the seed that God supplies and multiplies is not physical goods, but grace abounding, so that having all sufficiency (all the spiritual resources needed) in all things at all times we may abound in sowing that seed of grace in practical acts of righteousness, good works.
Remember this is what Paul said happened to the Macedonian churches “…the grace of God [had] been given among [them].” And then they gave beyond their means. God didn’t give them money, but what did rise up in them? Joy in the Lord and love for the saints. And they sowed that seed of grace by an amazing act of generosity on their part.
Add to that verse 16 of chapter 8, “But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.” The seed that God supplied and multiplied for Titus was an earnest care for the people of God in Corinth.
So as we saw last time, it is willingness and zeal and cheerfulness and submission to God that must be at the heart of all practical righteousness. And it appears that these spiritual qualities are exactly what Paul would define as the ‘seed’ that God is multiplying in us so that we might sow that seed in practical acts of righteousness.
Acknowledging God’s Gift
Do we realize that it is God who supplies this kind of seed for sowing?
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
I wonder if we have this dynamic as clearly in our thinking as we should.
So, again, the analogy has three parts:
- Seed that God supplies and multiplies, which we have seen is grace, spiritual sufficiency, joy in the Lord, love for His people, zeal, willingness, cheerfulness, submission to God, etc. These are the seed the God supplies
- The Sowing of that seed is the second part of the picture, and this corresponds to practical acts of righteousness – giving generously in this case.
- And finally, the product of that sowing, that which is reaped as a result of sowing the seed, that which Paul calls ‘the harvest of your righteousness.’ And that harvest is thanksgiving to God. The end and goal and product is the glory to God.
Walking through the TextSo, with this analogy clear in our minds let’s walk through the text again:
2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (seed 👉🏽sown 👉🏽reaped)
6. The point is this: whoever sows [does acts of righteousness/good works] sparingly will also reap [the glory of God] sparingly, and whoever sows [does acts of righteousness/good deeds] bountifully will also reap [the glory of God] bountifully.
Verse seven is an unpacking of what righteousness and godliness is, as we examined last time.
7. Each one must give [sow/do acts of righteousness/good deeds] as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful [seed] giver.
8. And God is able to make all [that] grace [the seed of joy, love, willingness, zeal, cheerfulness, submission] abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work [sowing, every act of righteousness/good deed].
9. As it is written,
“He has distributed [done good deeds] freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
10. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed [grace/willingness, zeal, cheerfulness, submission] for sowing [for good works], and increase the harvest of your righteousness [the harvest of the God’s glory coming from your good works]. You will be enriched in every way [given grace, the seed of joy, love, willingness, zeal, cheerfulness, submission] to be generous in every way [to sow bountifully/do acts of righteousness bountifully/do every good work], which through us will produce thanksgiving to God [the harvest/bread]. For the ministry of this service (this act of righteousness/good deed) is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God [the harvest/the bread].
I think it is important that we get very clear, again, that the end, aim, and goal of our practical righteousness is the glory to God – that’s the harvest of our righteousness.
As we saw three weeks ago, all things are from Him and through Him and to Him. Or to use the analogy: our practical acts of genuine godliness produce/reap thanksgiving to God because our practical acts of godliness are simply the sowing of that spiritual seed, which comes from Him – the grace He gives.
And as we saw two weeks ago, He is able to make all grace (seed) abound to us, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, we might abound in every good work. We must not cop out – the expectation is that believers can abound in every good work because it is God who is at work in us.
And last week we saw that true practical righteousness requires that our good works flow from a heart beholding the glory of Christ, willing and ready, excited and enthusiastic, cheerful and joyful, and freely submitted to God and to His will. These spiritual qualities are in fact the seed which God is able to make abound to us so that we might sow it bountifully in every good work.
And so this week we come full circle with this analogy to the result or harvest of the sowing of these spiritual qualities. The result being many thanksgivings to God. The produce of the harvest of righteousness is the glory of God because all things are from Him and through Him and so are to Him.
Next time, if the Lord wills we, will focus on the question of the means by which God increases the harvest and what our part is in that – like if it is all from Him what do we need to do – if I’m grouchy it must be because God didn’t give me joy today – it’s not my fault. Hmmm. We need to think carefully about that.
But even as we need to wrestle with that question, that question does not negate the truth that Paul has taught: God is the source, sustainer, and giver of all that is good in the church and so He is the one who must received all the praised. So, with the time we have left, let’s think about the practical implication of how that truth should shape and change us.
God our Savior
First of all, I think we really need to embrace the fact that there is not any room in the church for self-praise. All the glory is intended to go to God because all of our submission and acts of righteousness find their origin and source in what He alone gives. God alone must receive the glory for what He done in His church.
I think we all know we are supposed to say, ‘to God be the glory,’ when we receive thanks from others, but what are we saying? What does that mean? Do we believe the words coming out of our mouths? Why would God receive glory for my acts of kindness? Do we actually understand how our genuine acts of righteousness bring praise to God?
According to this passage it is because the heart of kindness and generosity – and all other spiritual capacities and resources – are from God, not from us.
Notice in verse 13 why the Jerusalem saints glorify God:
2 Corinthians 9:13-15
By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of (1) your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and (2) the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others…
So, they will glorify God because of the Corinthians’ submission and because of their generosity. God is to be praised and God it to be honored when His people are submissive to His will and generous to other. Why? Because God is the source, the giver of that grace. ‘He put it into the heart of Titus…’
These are not things that we secure for ourselves or conjure up in ourselves and so the application of these graces in action cannot be a cause of self-praise but only a cause for worship.
For us and in us
Too often I think we fail to see the full range of God’s work in His church.
Very often when we think about God’s saving work, I think we usually focus in on what He did for us in history. Namely, sending His one and only Son to live as a man righteously, to die a substitutionary death, and beating the power of sin and death, which was demonstrated in His resurrection. We think of His ascension, authority to forgive, intercession. And hear me, all that is absolutely essential and central and it is there we must fix our attention. Yes!
But if we do not also see that it is God who not only did all of that for us, but is the One who also must apply it to us and is actually at work in us we have missed a major portion of His work, which is intended to reap praises to His name.
Have we given due attention to God’s work in us? Does He truly receive all the glory due His name for the seed He alone supplied?
Truly what Paul describes here should humble us. Unless God gives the seed their will be no harvest. Unless God grants, give, enriches us with these things we will have nothing good to offer. In the church there should be great humility and sobriety and realism as we think about our own ability, and there should be great dependency and confidence and expectancy and praise as we think about God’s ability to work for us and in us. But for the grace of God we would be fruitless, dead trees: stingy, selfish, self-seeking, cold, begrudging. Dry Bone.
Let us praise Him for every last spiritual capacity that we have because it has come from His hand through Jesus Christ.
What is our Deepest aim as God’s people?
Like Paul, do our aims go deeper than merely getting along or doing good to our fellow man? Do our goals reach beyond our behaviors toward one another. In the end, are we aiming toward the aim of Paul, that God might be praised? That God might be thanked? That God might receive all the glory in the church?
Our aim as a church must be more than being known as a loving family, a loving church. Our aim must be that God receive all praised for the good done in His church. To God be the glory.